We all have a tendency now and again to blow our top and rant and rave. Things just get too much and we really let off steam. As it happens, where we seem to get angry most often is with members of our family.
Anger though, like all emotions, is a natural human response, but expressing it aggressively can sabotage your relationships, heighten conflict and make you feel poorly. So how can we manage anger better and reduce our conflicts?
Step 1: Recognise that you are responsible for your feelings, especially anger.
It is easy to blame others for your feelings and we say things like “You make me angry!”, “You get me all steamed up!”, “You make me mad!”
“You” statements, though, are wrong!
No-one else can make us feel anything! Indeed, other people’s actions can influence us or impact upon us, but they do not control us. We are the ultimate controllers of how we feel and how we choose to think and act in a situation. If you choose to think in a negative, blaming or defensive ways, and then act in similar ways, then you can certainly make yourself very angry!
However, we can be responsible for our feelings in the way that we think about the situation.
Step 2: Recognise the early warning signs of increasing tension or conflict.
Learn to monitor you own “feelings” barometer. Be attuned to your early warning signals.
For example, raising the voice, holding your breath or breathing quickly, increased muscle tension or tightness, interrupting or talking over others, and feeling angry and annoyed are all pointers to an escalating conflict.
Step 3: Recognise that the most likely reason for your anger is that you believe that you have been treated unfairly.
Someone pushes in front of us in the traffic or in a queue and we say, “He can’t get away with that!”, “Who does she think she is?”, “Why, of all the nerve!”. Someone belittles us and we think to ourselves, “How dare he speak to me like that!”. In reality, though, it’s an unjust world; it’s often not fair and really speaking, it’s no big deal and it’s not the end of the world to be treated unfairly. Life’s not fair! Recognise that you’ve been treated unfairly, but why become so indignant, so angry, so revengeful?
Step 4: Take hold of yourself.
Use a number of little ploys to help calm your emotions:
- Mentally step back from the situation and don’t get hooked or take the bait; pull back momentarily in your head.
- Calm your head – Talk to yourself – “Don’t get upset”, “Don’t respond, just keep quiet”, “Keep cool. Just try to keep calm”
- Calm your body – Take in a deep breath and as you breathe out, relax your body all over.
- Act calm – Don’t respond / use silence. Speak slowly. Try not toraise your voice.
Step 5: Listen.
Try to actively hear what the other person is saying. Don’t assume that you know what they are going to say or try to be a mind-reader of sorts.
Don’t rehearse in your head what you are going to say as soon as you can grab a conversational opening. When the discussion becomes heated, people often focus their attention on preparing their next clever statement in order to nail the opposition.
Don’t interrupt the other person. Instead, try to pretend to be a tape-recorder, i.e., try to play back to the other person, nearly word for word, what the other has just said.
You need not sound like a parrot, but try to summarize what the other has said. When the discussion is getting heated, instant play back helps the other person to feel that you are trying to listen, and it slows down an escalating discussion, giving you both time to cool down a bit. In fact, listening really does take the heat out of a conflict.
In essence, we are in control of our emotions – use these ploys to get on top of anger in particular. Remember, “a smile has immense face value”!